Government Using Social Media To Tame Rebellion
Government Using Social Media To Tame Rebellion

Until the mid-2000s, one would rarely associated Government the word high-tech with the country of Kazakhstan. Internet penetration hovered at 3% in 2005, and Kazakh authorities generally neglected the internet and social media.

Liberalization of the media market in the early 2000s change that. Usage of new media increased the number of internet providers and stimulated e-commerce. When the government, under president Nursutan Nazarbayev, in charge since the end of the Soviet Union. Began to see the internet as a new highway for economic development, its belief in digital technologies grew.

By 2013, the percentage of internet users had skyrocketed to 54%. The evolution of the Kazakh government’s relationship with the internet over. That same period is an illustrative tale of how national-level digitization can both bring government closer to its people and threaten undemocratic regimes.

Authoritarianism And The Internet Government

Authoritarian governments traditionally bolster their power by infiltrating populations with state propaganda. But in the internet era, old-school exploitation of print media and organization of state-sponsored. Sports and cultural events have become less effective in controlling public opinion.

Alternative online sources of information have bred popular cynicism and distrust in the central government and state-controlled news outlets. Long gone are the days when informational was monopolized by pro-state media and could shape popular moods.

In the last ten years, the proportion of people who use internet for educational and informational purposes has significantly risen. Kazakh internet users have stopped relying only on national news sources to understand the current state of domestic affairs. Reading and hearing stories online from foreign sources instead.

These often contradict national news outlets. For example, official sources report 16 people killed in a 2011 oil-workers strikes in Zhanaozen city. But some international outlets placed casualties at 73. Another controversial issue was about the Kazakh government’s secret negotiations with the Chinese government regarding land lease.

Government Counter Attacks

So, in the mid-2000s, Kazakhstan’s government went online. Boring and unwelcoming official websites of state organizations underwent a major face lift. Ministers and local mayors followed the example of Prime Minister Massimov. And started blogging his official blog, launched in 2005, has now disappear. The aim was to change public perception of government as an overly bureaucratic, unaccountable and ineffective body.

In his 2004 address to the nation President Nazarbayev call for deeper implementation of information technologies. Resulting in a centralized portal of state services. By 2012 Kazakhstan was sharing second place (along with Singapore) in a global rating of citizens. E-participation denoting ease of access to public services.

But the Ukrainian Orange Revolution of 2005, follow by the 2011-2012 Arab Spring protests. Signaled to post-communist dictators to treat social networks such as Facebook and Twitter with caution. Social media, it became clear, could be an effective tool to mobilize. Dissent and organize movements aimed at dismantling authoritarian governments.

Fearing that the Color Revolution could inspire civil unrest at home. The president of nearby Uzbekistan, Islam Karimov was the first Central Asian leader to ban social media, as early as 2010. In Kazakhstan though, authorities were quite confident that the Color Revolution virus would never reach its borders.

They were wrong. During the nine-month oil workers protests in Zhanaozen city, participants used Facebook and Twitter to mobilize resources, attract popular support, appeal to foreign governments and international organizations and demonize Kazakh leadership.

Government Special Forces

These protests were violently suppressed by special forces in December 2011. The Zhanaozen massacre resulted in the government curbing press freedom and heightening control of the virtual public space.

By tightening the media legislation and criminal code against frivolous social media, the Kazakh government cleansed the internet of opposition and expunged anti-regime speech or sentiments. The 2014 Communications Law stipulates that the prosecutor’s office can block any communications domain without seeking a court ruling, if such domain threatens national interests, promotes radicalism, and calls for illegal gatherings.

Since then authorities have regularly blocked popular internet resources Twitter, Skype, Youtube, Instagram, WhatsApp and national cellular networks. During the May 21, 2016 nationwide anti-land reform protests, for example, citizens reported difficulty accessing popular social media platforms and Google. Of course, neither government nor major telecommunications companies such as Beeline, Kcell and Kazakh telecom related internet outages to protests, they cited technical problems.

State monopolization of the internet was coupled with growing government involvement in social media. Some politicians and state bodies went beyond mere blog maintenance to open accounts on leading social networks. The #Almaty city government launched Instagram and Twitter accounts in September 2015, ostensibly aimed at improving government’s feedback mechanism with residents.

And via the president’s Ak Orda Press Facebook account, any citizen of Kazakhstan can write a letter to a president. Examples like these of state involvement in social media were positively perceived by society.

A Quiet Acceptance

One may only wonder about public reaction to authorities clamp down on social media and the internet: Kazakh citizens are well-versed in self-censorship. But the absence of any significant public opposition to the clampdown on media freedoms suggests that people partially buy into state propaganda claiming that such measures are necessary to preserve peace and stability in Kazakhstan.

So is social media friend or foe to the Kazakh government? The fact is, it’s both. When used as it is in democratic countries, the internet is obviously a serious threat to the survival of Kazakhstan’s authoritarian regime.

But Kazakhstan learned from the mistakes of other ex-authoritarian post-Soviet states. Its draconian media legislation and online activity monitoring have managed to control the enemy you do not know. And by introducing e-government state services portal and engaging with constituents via social media, the Kazakh government is trying to boost citizens confidence and satisfaction with government.

Usurping most of the population’s opportunities to anonymously access and exchange information, the regime has eliminated most hope that social media might regain its promise of empowering citizens against authoritarianism. Few Kazakhs, if any, know how to use online anonymizers and VPN services to access restricted web content. Few, if any, are ready to risk their welfare by using the internet for anti-governmental activities. And so, in Kazakhstan at least, the internet has ensured authoritarianism’s survival.

Indonesia’s Super Apps Will Another Waste Of State Budget?
Indonesia’s Super Apps Will Another Waste Of State Budget?

The Indonesia’s Ministry of Communication and Information’s (Kominfo) plan to merge waste. Around 24,000 government apps into just eight apps, which they call Super Apps, is worth closer scrutiny.

As of today, the government has developed tens of thousands of digital-based applications. Which have been proven ineffective to improve and support public services.

The release of various government applications so far has only prioritized quantity. As if only to keep up with new technology developments. Without being accompanied by guarantees of quality access services.

The plan to merge the current applications into just eight is not even based on clear evidence. Together with public as users, government must ensure. This merger will not cause new problems, both from a technical point of view and from. The perspective of the delivery of public services.

The Government’s Wrong Focus On Digitalization Waste

Minister of Finance, Sri Mulyani Indrawati, recently complain. That the creation of thousands of government applications was a waste of money. The apps were made without considering the needs of public services and integration of all organizational units in the government.

Sentuh Tanahku (Touch My Land) an app create by the Ministry of Agrarian and Spatial Planning (BPN). Has got a low rating, only 3.4 out of 5from about 18,200 reviews on the Google Play Store. Despite having being downloaded for more than one million times, many of its users have submitted complaints due to errors and failure in data submission.

Then, there is a complaint handling application Lapor! (Report!), which was initially managed by the Presidential Working Unit for Development Supervision and Control (UKP4) in the era of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY). Under President Joko Jokowi Widodo’s administration, its management was handed over to the Ministry of Administrative Reform and Bureaucratic Reform (PAN-RB). But now this application is not as effective as in the SBY era in resolving complaints related to bureaucracy and public services.

The thousands of government applications that now exist give an impression that every institution has been competing to create their own digital applications and to create new digital ecosystems. Which not necessarily inclusive. It seems like the government only wants to look tech savvy.

The technology push grew after Jokowi issued a Presidential Instruction in August 2020 about five directions to accelerate digital transformation. The five directions are expansion of access, roadmap for digitizing the strategic sector, data integration, readiness of human resources, and funding schemes. The Kominfo then put these directions into the six directions of the 2021-2024 Digital National Roadmap.

Digital Transformation Policies Waste

Unfortunately, so far Indonesia’s digital transformation policies including the presidential instructions and the Kominfo roadmap have been only limited to instrumental transformation. Instrumental transformation is a change in aspects of administration, information management, and forms of public services that have shifted to digital. In short, the government carries out public service activities, but in a different way, namely from conventional to digital.

The proliferation of tens of thousands of government applications is also a form of instrumental transformation, because it only focuses on infrastructure development not on the public, as the people who will, or will not, feel the benefits of the transformation.

We have never seen any ‘systemic transformation’, which focuses on the quality aspect of the relationship between policymakers and the public. Activities needed for systematic transformation could, for example, take the form of public aspiration forum, facilitated by digital media, or public involvement in designing policies and services. These have been nowhere to find.

This is not the first time the government has implemented a digitalization policy that does not put the public first. During his first time in office, Jokowi instructed all government institutions at all levels to innovatively use digital communication media, such as social media, and leave old ways of public communication.

However, a study conducted by the first author about the government’s communication waste model on social media found that they only use the communication technology to build a good image and disseminate information.

Focus On Inclusivity And Personal Data Protection

The main goal of the digital ecosystem transformation in governance should be to provide better public services. Therefore, the Super Apps, or whatever the apps is call, should not only provide features to submit complaints. Which are often not being follow up but also come up with interactive spaces for the public to give input, be involve in policy design, to participate, and supervise policy implementation.

Here are the three important points the government must consider before they move to create the eight Super Apps:

  • Inclusive: The government must ensure that the application will be inclusive. This means that all of the individuals, without exception, must get access to the technologies and the public services, including for people with disabilities.
  • Integrated: If the creation of the Super Apps aims to integrate all kinds of public services at the local government levels, the central government must ensure that the scheme is in sync with every regional regulation, especially when it comes to technical services.
  • Privacy protection: The most important point is about data privacy. The government must guarantee the protection of people’s personal information, data, messages, and documents circulating on the internet. It is important for the government to ensure that all personal information does not leak and fall into the hands of third parties such as organizations or individuals who have no right to that.

Until now, almost all of the government’s applications are still failing to protect data of the users. Whereas it is one of the basic rights of every citizen and has been guarantee under Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights UDHR.

General Data Protection Regulation

General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), a rule issued by the European Union. About the protection of privacy and data security, states that data privacy is part of the basic human rights. This regulation prioritizes individuals as data owners, to control the use and also retention of their data. In the United States (US), this is regulate under the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA).

As of now, the personal data protection practices in the Europe and US use opt-in and opt-out. Approaches in granting and requesting consent. The data owner can give, or not give, consent related to access to technology services or sites.

Opt-in is the process of asking users to choose whether their personal data can be further process or not. Without the users consent, the service providers can not collect and process their personal data.

Opt-out is an action users can take to make digital technology service providers stop collecting and processing their personal data.

Service Providers Access Waste

This means that internet users can give service providers access to their personal data to be retrieve at any time. By anyone, for various purposes, and to be process or used freely, until the users themselves terminate the access.

The Peduli Lindung application waste is a good example of an application that does not protect its users personal data. This application not only requests users’ location data in real time, but also asks for other personal data. Such as Population Identification Number (NIK), photo of National Identity Card (KTP) and other data that are not actually related to the COVID-19 contact tracking and tracing system.

Users should given the options whether to give consent or not before their data is access. Used and stored, even when it is for the benefit of public services. This kind of practice is a real example of how the government has been negligent. And does not respect individuals privacy.

We underline that the provision of digital public services and the emergence of applications. Should not only focus on the quantity to celebrate a new technological society. The digitalization must be based on the spirit of helping the community. Get guarantee access to inclusive, balance and impartial services.

India’s Social Media Star, Struggles Government Online
India’s Social Media Star, Struggles Government Online

When Narendra Modi was elect in early 2014, the media declare him India’s first social media prime minister and compare his approach to technology to that of former US president Barack Obama. In 2016, Time magazine named Modi one of the 30 most influential people on the internet.

Today, he is the most followed world leader on social media, with more than 40 million Facebook followers. Needless to say, with a social media superstar at the helm, the Indian government was expect to bloom online.

But this idea should advance cautiously, as certain facts belie the assumption. According to the Pew Research Center, 87% American adults use the internet, while only 27% of Indians do. And only two in ten Indians regularly use social media platforms, whereas seven in ten Americans do.

Digital India To Connect All Citizens Media

One of the government’s priorities main is to get more Indians connect to the web. New Delhi’s new program, Digital India, unifies information and communication technology (ICT) initiatives under one umbrella.

The process of building ICTs into governance involves the automation of routine administration jobs such as online passport registration or school application, providing requisite information to citizens, and citizen engagement in policy-making.

The Digital India initiative has seen some significant successes. It has connected all 250,000 Gram Panchayats local administrative clusters of villages with fiber optic cables, established WIFI villages and smart cities and created an ecosystem for Aadhaar, India’s national biometric identification system. It has also encouraged electronic banking through mobile payments.

The government also launched an exclusive citizen engagement platform,, which currently boasts 4 million registrations, 1.8 million submissions across 599 tasks and 35 million comments.

Given India’s infrastructure inadequacies and weak private-public partnerships, these are laudable efforts.

Ministries Are Letting Modi Down Media

Modi has pushed his ministers to adopt social media platforms as a part of their job. Many agencies have invited the experts and representatives from Facebook, Twitter and Google to attend consultation meetings some of which I have attended and also made data requests.

Today, the Election Commission of India uses Facebook to engage potential and present voters with the democratic process, and most ministry and agency websites are integrated with various digital platforms. It is also common to see government agencies advertising to hire social media firms in national newspapers.

Social media platforms are part of the larger e-governance effort. At a minimum, the government uses them to get information to citizens and, more gradually, to include user-generated content in governance.

But at present, despite these various actions, social media acts primarily a mere extension of agency homepages. Evidently, many ministries and departments are hesitant to use the pages and accounts they’ve started.

Real-time updates are few. Those that occur are thanks to a few savvy ministers, including Sushma Swaraj, Minister of External affairs, Piyush Goyal, Minster of Power, and Suresh Prabhu, Minister of Railways.

Some of Twitter interactions have been impressive. Take, for example, the time Sushma Swaraj directly help an Indian citizen who was mug in Tanzania.

However, government social media usage starts to fail when ministers are question or criticize by users. It took Modi who usually uses Twitter daily ten days to tweet about the communal violence in Dadri, where a Muslim man was lynched by a Hindu mob on suspicion of slaughtering a cow.

Lack Of Credibility Media

Quickly voicing concerns to other users and trading in genuine uncensored content are major features of social media. If these activities shaken, either by blocking criticisms or through non-responsiveness, trust and credibility lost.

If a minister responds to, say, a tweet about the lack of baby diapers on railway platforms but does not immediately respond to queries about a recent accident, or if a minister keeps mum on violence when she is expect to speak out, the real value that social media could bring to governance is lost. Citizens may stop following the ministers, or troll them. Both hurt efficiency in e-governance.

Despite its social media presence, Modi’s government has largely failed to move beyond simply disseminating information. In 2015, the Chennai floods left thousands homeless and killed almost 500. Well before the government responded, civil society organizations and citizens used social media to create live-updated maps of affected areas and tell residents about safe houses and transportation.

Of Censorship, Trolls And Bhakts

The government is also concerned about its own employees criticizing policy initiatives or liking anti-government views. Recently, civil servants were advise to follow a social media code of conduct though this framework appears outdate and incomplete.

Government social media use also co-opt by political party supporters. Called bhakts, or henchmen, these ardent supporters of Modi or of other right-wing political movements have sidetracked any possibilities of healthy discussion. And they are equally match by their more liberal opponents.

Bhakts are not public officials. But their online activities have blurred the lines between the roles played by political party head and prime minister, reducing the potential positive outcomes of the government’s fledgling social media efforts.

To Regulate And To Serve

There are two main ways that a democratic government approaches the social media sphere: regulation and service provision. Modi’s government is in the nascent stages of both

As a regulator, governments should monitor online activity, policing content and its creators if needed without damaging freedom of expression. The Modi administration’s regulatory role is being hijack by partisan trolls who lack training and legitimacy.

As a digital public-service provider, governments should treat online citizens like customers, seeking feedback on services or extending post-service support. When Twitter may be explore as an e-banking platform, for example, why not use it to book a ticket on India’s state-run railroad or apply for a passport?

Without better guidelines on playing this role, however, Modi’s government agencies will continue to struggle to provide citizen services. As an individual, Prime Minister Modi may be an exceptional social media influencer. But, for now, the same cannot said about his government.